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White House Searches for Op-Ed Author as President Blames Resistance on Unelected Deep State Operatives; Trump's New Syria Strategy; Republicans Accuse Democrat Cory Booker of Posturing His Presidential Bid; Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired September 7, 2018 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: After a day of denials, how close is the White House to finding the mystery author?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. troops could be in Syria much longer than expected. Russia is warning the U.S. American troops could come under attack. CNN is live in Damascus.

BRIGGS: The August jobs report comes out this morning. Unemployment and wages numbers in just a few hours.

ROMANS: And Twitter says enough is enough for Alex Jones. The conspiracy and hate peddler booted from the social platform.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Good to see you, my friend. Good morning, everyone. I'm Dave Briggs. 4:30 Eastern Time.

A full-on Bart Simpson are administration officials going, I didn't do it. It wasn't me. Repeated denials from the president's allies after that scathing op-ed from an anonymous senior official in the "New York Times." Top members of the administration denying authorship, calling the op-ed amateur, laughable, sophomoric, deceitful and more.

We're told the president was reading the denials closely, having them all immediately printed out and delivered to him. The White House may be closer to figuring out who the author was. The "New York Times" citing an outside adviser says the administration has about a dozen names on its list.

ROMANS: First Lady Melania Trump even weighing in, calling the op-ed author, quote, "cowardly," claiming he or she is sabotaging the country. She also cited the importance of a free press.

And Senator Rand Paul offered up this idea.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I think if you have a security clearance in the White House, I think it would be acceptable to use a lie detector test and ask people whether or not they're talking to the media against the policy of the White House.


ROMANS: An idea from a civil libertarian. Shocking.

The president has a lot to say about the "New York Times" and a mysterious op-ed writer at his rally in Billings, Montana, last night.

CNN's Jim Acosta was there.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump weighed in on that anonymous op-ed in the "New York Times" reportedly from a senior administration official who says that person is part of the resistance in the Trump administration.

During the rally in front of thousands of supporters, the president said he didn't know who it was, but reporters at "The New York Times" should investigate who the writer of the op-ed is.

Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: Unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself. And I was so heartened when I look. I think it's backfired. Seriously. People that don't exactly dig us, they don't exactly like me, they are fighting for us. It's incredible. It's actually a beautiful thing.


ACOSTA: The prospects of impeachment also appeared to be on the president's mind as this president told his rally here in Billings, Montana. If Democrats take control of the Congress, they would probably impeach him come January -- Christine and Dave.

BRIGGS: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you.

A major shift for the U.S. commitment to Syria. The State Department's new envoy to Syria says troops should remain until there is an enduring defeat of ISIS. That could take a long time even though the president had suggested a more imminent pullout.

Let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen who very fortunate for us joins us live from Damascus on a pivotal time there.

Fred, good morning.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Absolutely. It could be very pivotal time, Dave. We saw on the one hand this evening possible policy shift by the U.S. Now not anymore saying that they want to get out of Syria by the end of the year, but could be there indefinitely until ISIS is completely defeated and they also want to see the Iranians leave Syria all together. Could also of course very much pit the U.S. against Russia right now with a big offensive in the last major rebel stronghold seemingly imminent.

The U.S. so far, a fairly passive role as that's been shaping up, of course warning the Russians and the Syrian government that chemical weapons can't be used. But at the same time those warnings so far have not really been heeded by the Russians or the Syrians. They are gearing up still for that offensive.

At the same time, Dave, you have a massive summit going on in the Iranian capital today between the Russians, the Turks and also of course the Iranians as well. And there, those sides are going to try and prevent major bloodshed from happening. Very difficult to see how that's going to be done. The Russians are saying they believe that this last place called Idlib Province is a hotbed of terrorism.

Of course there are some very hard line jihadist groups there, including some that used to affiliated with al Qaeda. So certainly the situation very much heating up. A possible conflict between the U.S. and Russia seems something that could be in the cards in the future especially with the U.S. seemingly getting tougher on Syria all together -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Great reporting from Frederik Pleitgen live for us in Damascus. 11:34 there. Thanks, Fred.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight. Defense Secretary James Mattis touching down in Afghanistan. He will meet with General Austin Miller, the newly installed commander of Resolute Support, and U.S. forces during his unannounced visit. Mattis also plans to hold talks with Afghan officials and will host a town hall with the troops.

[04:35:03] BRIGGS: Score one for the Democratic establishment. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware fending off a spirited primary challenge last night from progressive Kerri Evelyn Harris. And it wasn't close. Carper's decades of experience more of a selling point than a burden with voters who gave him a 29-point win. Harris, a 38- year-old Air Force veteran and a community organizer, may have been doomed by a cash-strapped campaign.

Barack Obama ready to get off the sidelines and get back in the game. According to his advisers Mr. Obama planning a rebuke of President Trump in a speech today at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign. We're told the Former presidents will be much more poignant about what's at stake.

Former presidents generally avoid critiquing their successors. But Mr. Trump has made it a prime objective to undo his predecessor's achievements while also attacking Mr. Obama on a personal level.

ROMANS: All right. So just how hot is the jobs market? The government releases its monthly jobs report this morning. Economists expect 187,000 new jobs created in August. The jobless rate expected to stay below 4 percent.

What we really want to see is wage growth. It's been hovering around 2.7 percent for years. That is not much of a raise for American workers. Now historically when the labor market tightens this hot, wages rise significantly as businesses try to attract and keep workers but that hasn't happened yet in this recovery. A couple of points here. There are millions of open jobs. More than

six million open jobs. Near a record high. You can blame a shortage of skilled workers for that. And an analyst from Goldman Sachs says concerns over new tariffs announced in recent months may have delayed hiring. August is also typically a sleepy month for job growth. The bureau may not fully account for seasonal factors.

BRIGGS: Brett Kavanaugh can exhale after two days of tough questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Supreme Court nominee emerged with not many apparent missteps that could jeopardize his confirmation, rather.

We did learn one thing during his final day of testimony. Cory Booker appears to be running for president.

ROMANS: The Democratic senator declaring he was releasing e-mails despite their designation as committee confidential.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (R), NEW JERSEY: Now I appreciate the comments of my colleagues. This about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an "I am Spartacus" moment.


ROMANS: One problem, the e-mails were no longer confidential. More from CNN's Jessica Schneider on Capitol Hill.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, the big flashpoint of the day was over documents. The drama began to unfold when New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said he was willing to risk expulsion by disclosing confidential e-mails.

Well, Republicans called it all a big show saying that those exact e- mails had already been released at 4:00 in the morning. Five 1/2 hours before this hearing began. And Republicans further accused Cory Booker of just saying he was disclosing this to advance his possible presidential bid.


BOOKER: I'm going to release the e-mail about racial profiling. And I understand that that -- the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), MAJORITY WHIP: Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate or of confidentiality of the documents that we -- that we are privy to.


SCHNEIDER: Now Judge Kavanaugh in the meantime faced hours upon hours of grilling where he once again stressed that he has not had any conversations with anyone at the White House about the special counsel's probe. And Judge Kavanaugh also tried to clarify a 2003 e- mail when he worked for the George W. Bush White House, when he wrote in an e-mail that not all legal scholars believe that "Roe v. Wade" is binding precedent.

And Judge Kavanaugh worked to clarify those comments, saying that he only wanted to make sure that all legal scholars was a bit too broad and that that comment had nothing to do with his own personal opinions -- Christine and Dave.

ROMANS: Jessica, thank you for that.

Breaking overnight. A suspect is in custody following a hostage drama in Washington state. This is just outside of Tacoma. Police say an armed suspect wearing body armor walked into a business, took one person hostage as part of an attempted armed robbery. The suspect fired multiple rounds as authorities rescued the hostage. Now the suspect was eventually taken into custody. He was hit once in that vest, but did not suffer serious injury. No officers were hurt.

BRIGGS: Football is back, folks. The Philadelphia Eagles raising their championship banner and winning their season opener 18-12 over the Falcons. Neither team too impressive as you can tell by the score. Neither quarterback throwing for a touchdown.

Players from both teams were on the field during the national anthem. A few Eagles players including Michael Bennett and Jay Ajayi did sit down toward the end of the anthem. Everyone seemed to agree on one thing. NBC could do without this new green zone that was created to show viewers how much yardage is needed for a first down.

I think we can all agree the yellow line was pretty effective at demonstrating exactly that. But basically a sloppy season opener for two teams that you could see in the Super Bowl. Didn't look like it.

[04:40:06] ROMANS: Look, I love all the graphics. I love the new stuff. I mean, watching football today is so much cooler than like when we were kids, right? But I don't need the green thing.

BRIGGS: And we don't need 9:00 Eastern Time starts.

ROMANS: Well, that's the --

BRIGGS: We can't see the kickoff.

ROMANS: All right. 40 minutes past the hour, Hollywood is mourning the loss of Burt Reynolds this morning. The actor's career spanned more than half a century. We're going to look back next.


BRIGGS: Hollywood is mourning the loss of a beloved movie icon, actor Burt Reynolds.


BURT REYNOLDS, ACTOR: We get connected with this body and the law. This thing is going to be hanging over us the rest of our lives. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Reynolds' career spanned more than 50 years. His breakthrough performance in the 1972 film "Deliverance" made him a star. He became Hollywood's biggest box office drama in the late '70s and early '80s when he starred in his most successful film "Smokey and the Bandit" alongside Sally Field.


[04:45:08] REYNOLDS: Cowboys love fat calves. Let me tell you.

SALLY FIELD, ACTRESS: They're not fat?

REYNOLDS: They're bigger than mine.

FIELD: Do we really want to talk about legs?

REYNOLDS: Well, one of us does.


ROMANS: Reynolds had a career comeback in the 1990s capped by his role in the film "Boogie Nights" which earned him his only Oscar nomination. Sally Field said this about Reynolds, who was her co-star on and off the screen. "There are times in your life that there are so indelible they never fade away. They stay alive even 40 years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind."

The great Burt Reynolds was 82.

BRIGGS: The New York attorney general issuing subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state, all eight, as part of an investigation into how they reviewed and possibly covered up allegations of sexual abuse of minors. It comes just weeks after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed decades of abuse by predator priests. The Archdiocese of New York says in a statement church officials are ready and eager to cooperate.

Also on Thursday New Jersey's attorney general announced a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and any attempted cover-ups.

ROMANS: Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Web site Infowars banned by Twitter. The move coming one month after several other Silicon Valley sites announced a similar ban. Twitter says it took the action based on tweets and videos that violated the company's abusive behavior policy.

This decision coming one day after Jones confronted Senator Marco Rubio, this is in a Capitol Hill hallway outside a hearing for tech executives.

BRIGGS: Don't test him, man.

ROMANS: After the ban was announced Jones posted a video on his Infowars Web site claiming this is the deep state striking back and really pressuring these tech firms to censor.

BRIGGS: At least three men killed in a shooting in downtown Cincinnati. The suspected gunman died at the scene shot multiple times as officers approach. Cincinnati's mayor saying the incident should frighten us all.


MAYOR JOHN CRANLEY, CINCINNATI: This is not normal. And it shouldn't be viewed as normal. This is abnormal. No other industrialized country has this level of active multiple shootingss on a regular basis, almost on a daily basis.


BRIGGS: No immediate word on a motive but the city's police chief says they are looking into mental health issues. Two other victims were injured.

ROMANS: A former USA gymnastics trainer who worked with disgraced Doctor Larry Nassar is now facing child sexual assault charges. Debbie Van Horn will be arraigned today in Houston. She was arrested Thursday at the Houston Airport after getting off a flight from China. Van Horn and Nassar were indicted in June on child sexual assault charges stemming from alleged incidents at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas where numerous Olympians have trained for decades. Van Horn's attorney says she will plead not guilty at her arraignment to clear her name and restore her, quote, "impeccable reputation."

BRIGGS: The Motion Picture Academy rethinking the addition of a Popular Film category at the Oscars. The new award was supposed to debut at the 91st Oscars ceremony in February, but the Academy announced Thursday it's shelving the controversial award for now. They say implementing it nine months into the year created challenges for films that have already been released in 2018. The Academy says it will still examine and seek additional input regarding the new Oscar category.

ROMANS: All right. Your next Amazon order might be delivered by Amazon. We'll tell you about the big truck order that's beefing up the Amazon fleet, when we get a check on CNN Money next.


[04:53:28] ROMANS: One person is under arrest for the stabbing of a presidential candidate in Brazil. Now this attack caught on video. We want to warn you it is disturbing to watch. You can see Brazil's frontrunner, far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, he's attacked as he was carried through a crowd on shoulders of supporters. He was rushed to a nearby hospital. His son says he could have died if the hospital was further away. Bolsonaro is in stable condition, .we're told. He's known as the Brazilian Trump. He is notorious for his racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.

BRIGGS: CBS chief Les Moonves appears on his way out following a report detailing sexual harassment allegations. A friend confirms to CNN Moonves has told some confidants about the departure talks. Moonves may be owed $180 million in severance. But if he's removed for cause, that's not the case. CNBC reports the CBS board is offering a package of roughly $100 million almost entirely in CBS stock. Moonves has acknowledged he may have made some women uncomfortable in the past, but says he never misused his position to hinder anyone's career.

ROMANS: Ford is recalling about two million of its popular F-150 pickup trucks in North America because of a faulty seatbelt mechanism that has caused fires. The company says the seatbelt equipment could ignite causing insulations in carpets inside the truck to catch fire. Nearly two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada have been reported with no known accidents or injuries.

About 1.6 million of the F-150 trucks affected are in the U.S. The Ford F series is the best-selling car in the U.S. Ford says it will make the repairs at no cost to customers.

[04:55:05] BRIGGS: Serena Williams back in a familiar place. That's the U.S. Open Finals. She beat the number 19th seed Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia, 6-3, 6-0 to reach her ninth final at Flushing Meadows. Serena has won this tournament six times. With one more she'll tie Margaret Court for the most major singles titles in tennis history with 24. She is remarkable.

Serena will face Naomi Osaka of Japan in tomorrow's Open Final. The 20-year-old Osaka the first Japanese woman to reach a grand slam final.

ROMANS: All right. The northeast is expected to finally get a break from this unbearable heat as we keep an eye on a hurricane churning off the tropics that could affect the U.S.

CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the forecast.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

If you like fall, you're going to love this forecast. Big changes expected today across the northeast. Temperatures running about 15 to upwards of 25 degrees cooler than yesterday's high temperatures.

Look at this, yesterday it reached 97 in Boston. Today, only a high of 73. Similar conditions expected for New York and other locations across New England. Daytime highs for Chicago, 71. But compared that to Atlanta, 89. So still hot and sweltering across the southwest.

This is all thanks to a cold front that's draped across the East Coast that's helping cool our temperatures and bring our taste of fall. But follow that a little bit further inland and you can see the precipitation that's associated with the system and a low pressure that continues to churn across the Midwest. In fact we have flood watches in effect from the Ohio valley right to the Mississippi valley. Look out for heavy rainfall continuing through the course of the day today.

We're also watching very active tropical weather across the Atlantic. Of course, we have a few waves moving off the west coast of Africa. But we're also monitoring the progress of Tropical Storm Florence. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. That's your weather. Here is your money this Friday morning. U.S. stock futures in a holding pattern right now ahead of the government's monthly jobs report. A big slide in tech. And concerns about trade have weighed on the market this week. If you have been checking your portfolio, it's been a little ugly.

The European stocks are mixed right now. Stock markets in Asia closed mixed as well. One stock to watch today, Twitter. Investors have been dumping the stock following CEO Jack Dorsey's visit to Capitol Hill. The stock has tumbled 12 percent in just the past couple of days. Erasing big gains from August.

Investors are worried about future regulation and the company's ability to fight misinformation.

Twitter has been dropped as modest compared to what's been going on with Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is crashing. Bitcoin prices have dropped more than 20 percent in the past two days. Other popular cryptocurrencies have also plunged. The reason for the latest pull back a report that investment banking giant Goldman Sachs may be dropping plans to launch a crypto trading desk. That according to "Business Insider."

Well, Goldman Sachs tells CNN Money, it is not made a firm decision about Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The huge amount earlier this year was built on the hopes that investment banks would jump into cryptocurrency and that would of course legitimize them.

Amazon is 20,000 steps closer to delivering its own packages. The company is ordering 20,000 sprinter vans from Mercedes Benz. Each is painted dark blue, lather's the signature prime arrow logo. The deal is a big leap from Amazon's first order of 5,000 vans. In July, Amazon it will begin recruiting people to launch small delivery companies that would deliver packages locally. It says tens of thousands of people applied including veterans, families and a former NFL player that Amazon declined to name. Start your own business.

BRIGGS: Former NFL player they declined to name.

ROMANS: I don't know. They won't say who it is.

BRIGGS: I want to hear more about that.

EARLY START continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even liberals that hate me say that's terrible what they did.


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump venting after this op-ed that targeted his presidency. After a day of denials, how close is the White House to finding this mystery author?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. troops could be in Syria much longer than expected. This as Russia warns the U.S. American troops could under attack. CNN live in Damascus.

BRIGGS: Twitter says enough is enough for Alex Jones. The conspiracy peddler booted from the social platform.

ROMANS: And it was ugly but it was football. The Eagles start their titled defense against the Falcons.

BRIGGS: That was incomplete. No touchdown passes.

ROMANS: OK. You must have missed that. If you're up watching us now you probably did not see that.

BRIGGS: Pretty good chance of that.

ROMANS: Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Those 9:00 games have just got to go. I'm Dave Briggs. Friday, September 7th, 5:00 a.m. in the east. Administration officials going full on Bart Simpson. I didn't do it. It wasn't me. Repeated denials from the president's allies ater that scathing op-ed from an anonymous senior official in "The New York Times." Top members of the administration denying authorship calling the op-ed amateur, laughable, sophomoric, deceitful, and several other things.